Eric Kelly and Eduard Folayang, both proud Igorot warriors, carried the Philippine flag proudly last night in the ONE FC: Pride of a Nation Mixed Martial Arts fight card at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kelly downed former Ultimate Fighting Championship Lightweight champ Jens Pulver with a TKO in the second round while Folayang impressed the judges for a stylish unanimous decision over Peruvian-Swiss-Japanese Felipe Enomoto.
"He's the Manny Pacquiao of MMA" said Pulver, a 37-year old American legend of the MMA wars.
Kelly entered the ring with an Igorot headband with a Philippine flag on it. Pulver took the first round but in the second 5-minute period Kelly caught the American with a wicked combination of punches. Moments later, the referee called a halt to the proceedings and gave Kelly the fight to the joy of the huge crowd at the Coliseum.
All sections from ringside to Upper Box A were sold out, with many Upper Box B seats also filled.
The 28-year-old featherweight now improves his perfect record to 8-0 and is slated to contend for the 145-pound ONE FC belt in October in Singapore versus fellow Pinoy Honorio Banario.
Folayang had a tougher matchup against Enomoto. The first round of their bout was cagey and close, but in the second Folayang, nicknamed "The Landslide" took command.
He was the aggressor all throughout the second round, connecting on several punches and bloodying the Peruvian. In the closing seconds, Folayang took him down and rained a flurry of shots at Enomoto.
The third round was tight with Enomoto desperately trying to make headway. But the judges felt Folayang was clearly the better fighter and called it a unanimous decision. Folayang's win-loss slate is now 12-2.
Fil-Canadian ONE FC president Victor Cui announced after the match that Folayang would also fight for a belt in October, this time the 155-lb title.
Honorio Banario had earlier outclassed another Filipino, Andrew Benibe, knocking him out in the third round.
Kevin Belingon, another Pinoy from Team Lakay, was not so fortunate, bowing to Soo Chul Kim of Korea in a Bantamweight clash.
Kim seized the initiative from the opening bell, using quickness and power to bully Belingon all fight long.
The Korean's strategy of keeping the action on the ground worked as he cruised to a unanimous decision.
In the main event, Brazilian Bantamweight Bibiano Fernandes also won a unanimous decision over Brazilian-born Australian Gustavo Falciroli. It was a comprehensive victory for the DREAM Bantamweight champ, who punished Falciroli with his superior grappling all throughout the encounter.
One of the most eagerly-awaited bouts also had the most bizarre ending. Belarusian Andrei Arlovski and American Tim Sylvia, both former UFC heavyweight champs, met for the fourth time in their careers, with Sylvia holding a 2-1 edge going into the fight.
Sylvia took the first round but Arlovski was brighter to start of the second, landing a kick.
But a strange sequence unfolded as the round was about to end. Arlovski tagged Sylvia with two vicious rights that sent the American crashing to the canvas.
Arlovski could have tried submitting the dazed Sylvia or he could have punched and kicked him in the body. Instead he unleashed two illegal Soccer kicks into his head. The fight was halted and Arlovski was shown a yellow card.
After a few minutes the officials decided that a No Contest was the fairest outcome, and the fight was stopped for good. The two heavyweights, who had spiced up the lead-up to the match with some vitriolic words for each other, shook hands and embraced.
It was a mixed night for the legendary Gracie family, as heavyweight Rolles Gracie defeated Tony Bonello of Australia with a submission via Rear Naked Choke in the third round.
Gregor Gracie was also victorious in his 80 kg catchweight matchup with Aussie Nicholas Mann, who trains in the Filipino discipline of Hybrid Yaw-Yan (Sayaw ng Kamatayan.)
Gracie caught Mann in an armbar in the second round, forcing the Australian to tap out.
But a third Gracie, Igor, had a rough night in his Bantamweight meeting with "The Stone Cutter" Jung Hwan Cha of Korea.
Cha showed far more enterprise in the fight and with under two minutes to go in the third, overwhelmed his Brazilian foe with a barrage of strikes to force the referee to stop the match and award a TKO.
Another Brazilian, Welterweight Rodrigo Ribeiro, also fell by the wayside, crumbling against American Phil Baroni via TKO in the first round. Baroni celebrated by picking up a ring girl and carrying her out the ring.
Featherweight Shannon Wiratchai of Thailand came from behind to defeat another American, Mitch Chilson, with a ferocious right hand/right kick combo in the second round for a TKO win.
For more info, visit www.onefc.com.
Yahoo Philippines thanks Long Van Nguyen of www.vietfighter.com for his invaluable help with this article.
You can follow Bob Guerrero on Twitter @bhobg333